Expressing cases of trauma through art
Johnathan visited NCAD’s graduate exhibition, where a number of students explained the motivation behind their work which was inspired by mental health.
Art is sometimes used as a creative outlet for those who do not know another way of expressing emotions, feelings and/or experiences. When partnered with mental health, art can be very powerful while also helpful.
I had the opportunity to go on a tour if the Graduate Show at the National College of Art and Design and view some amazing artwork by students there.
Range of mental health issues
The pieces centered around mental health awareness, and the expression of emotions, feelings and experiences that they have had. Mental health problems such as: anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), were portrayed in the exhibits.
Within these exhibits there was always something to connect to. The interesting thing was that no one would connect in the exact same way.
Understanding life experience
Everyone has a relationship with mental health. The deeper understanding behind the relationship is found through life experiences. No two people are exactly the same and/or live the exact same life.
Art is sometimes a way for people to find the similarities that are hard to see on the outside. We have all had our personal struggles and we have all handled them in our own ways.
One of the exhibits focused on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of sexual assault during childhood. At the first glance of the exhibit I noticed it was very beautiful and creative. The artist explained that is was about sexual assault and the development of PTSD.
At that moment the exhibit touch in a different way. It was the perfect portrayal of how simple and beautiful one might look from the outside and yet have experienced something so terrible.
It was set up to show the damage and innocence of a child that has been sexually assaulted and the outward expressions one may show. From shame, anxiety, guilt and depression.
It also embodied the actual brain structure of someone who may have gone through this experience in hope to raise awareness of how common this may be and the impact it can have on someone’s life.
Some of the other exhibits focused on anxiety. How anxiety is experienced and how to treat it is different for everyone. This was clear in the way the exhibits were created and how they were displayed.
Impact of anxiety
Anxiety can be frustrating, debilitating and extremely difficult to overcome but it is worth trying.
One exhibit depicted anxiety as something that comes in many forms, through illustrating different types of chairs: a rocking chair that would make you feel insecure as you weren’t sure it when it would swing back and a stool with no back, no allowances for getting comfortable.
The other depicted anxiety as something that can be managed by focusing the mind on a particular task. The exhibits, in a way, went together to show the struggle and the managing of a mental health problem such as anxiety.
The last exhibit was the most conceptual as it involved aspects of anxiety and trauma. This exhibit was explained as the present or the now that many are too caught up in the past or the future to experience. The artist explained the importance of slowing down to truly focus.
Revisiting tough times
The importance of dealing with traumatic issues was also touched on. Being able to revisit tough times in life and understand the full impact those moments have had on you. This allows for you to move on from that moment fully aware and fully accepting of it.
This tour was more conceptual than I could have ever imagined. The people that created the wonderful pieces of art truly submerged themselves in their work. It was difficult to connect but easy to understand why and accept it.
We all live different lives and experience different things. Although what we experience may be similar, how we experience these things are what make them ours.
Everyone goes through their struggles and it is important to understand that everyone overcomes their struggles in different ways. Art is an effective outlet for managing mental health. And for some, it may be worth trying.